By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Like Richard Nixon's 18-minute gap in the Watergate tapes, selectmen have about an extra half-hour of business they apparently want to get rid of by saying it happened in a nonpublic meeting.
Last night, the board voted unanimously to approve a change in a time stamp in the April 4 minutes that had already been approved, to reflect that the board went into a nonpublic session earlier than the 8:49 p.m. reflected on the first set of approved minutes.
"The 8:49 was a mistake," recording clerk Heather Carpenter said last night before selectmen voted to alter the approved minutes to reflect that the board had entered a nonpublic session earlier than the original minutes had stated.
During that half-hour, selectmen and Town Administrator Paul Branscombe had some choice and derogatory things to say about a number of town employees and residents.
What was said on the 30 minutes or so of what is now in "nonpublic" has been made public because the CD of the recording was given to those who requested it.
One of those people was Brenda Currier, who read the riot act to the board in its meeting last Monday. Currier reiterated her displeasure at the board last night.
She also took Branscombe to task for telling a different newspaper last week that she and some of the people who support her are on a "witch hunt."
Currier reiterated her concern that in the now "nonpublic" session, board members confirmed that they wanted "a clean slate" and reduced former Selectman Don Guarino's sister-in-law to a part-time employee by taking away her duties as recording secretary.
She called them each out by name – Chairman Michael Jean, for making slights about the planning clerk; McWhinnie, for cutting Guarino's sister-in-law's job just because of who she is related to and not for her job performance; and Selectman Marshall Bishop, who made the statement that he was "just trying to protect her" from what appears to be the fallout of McWhinnie defeating Guarino in the March election.
Police Chief Matt Currier also set the record straight last night on some of his issues with what was actually said before they went into the "non-public" session.
He told them that he wasn't happy his health issues were discussed in public while putting a fence along the back of the police station was not. He said he was offended when Branscombe said he was paid too much.
He added that police departments do not release work schedules or personal cell phone numbers because of officer safety and said that if board members had any questions about his budget they could just ask.
Earlier Monday Jean said in a telephone interview that the reason for the administrative assistant's cut from full-time to half-time is because the new board is restructuring the selectman's office. He said Carpenter is also part-time and that the town can't afford too many full-time employees, despite the fact that the former recording secretary and assistant to the town administrator were just promoted to full time six months ago.
He maintained the reasons were discussed in a nonpublic session, voted on unanimously and then revealed to the public.
"It had nothing to do with her being related to Guarino," he said when asked.
Jean agreed that some of the things that were made public from the April 4 session should have not been said in public or released. Written approved minutes of the April 4 session that were available online last Friday are now gone. According to state law, they are the official minutes of the meeting.
Jean also said that there are two new members on the board and since the April 4 meeting all have attended a Right-To-Know session for newly elected board members and will be attending a second Right-To-Know session later this week.
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